by William Lloyd Stearman, PhD



Another facet of my final lecture concerned how to get ahead in life. I noted that I have heard many men (but no women) complain that they could have got ahead in their organization if “only they had played politics.” My reply to this thought has been that no one who is unwilling to play politics deserves to get ahead. I then defined “politics” as pleasing your boss (or bosses) by doing well what he wants done and letting him know about it. This also includes getting along well with one’s colleagues. I submit that those who refuse to play this kind of politics often do so out of sheer self-centeredness and unwillingness to accommodate others. In this regard, never make enemies if you can possibly avoid it, as one usually can. You can never tell when someone whom you have alienated can someday be in a position to do you harm. That is especially true in the Washington, DC area. (See my experience in INR in Chapter 15.) When disagreeing with someone, be sparing in asserting your own position. It is much better to focus on civilly asking questions about the other person’s position. In any case, this is usually the only way you can bring someone around to your point of view.(Incidentally one can come across as being profound by speaking slowly and deliberately.) I also urged my students to be good listeners. Such are often considered to be great conversationalists with scarcely having said a word. One learns by listening. I have learned that virtually everybody knows something of interest that I did not know. Having broad interests not only enables one to get more out of life, it also enables one to relate to more and varied people by having some interest in common with them. When entering a gathering of people you do not know, focus on others and forget about yourself. Start up conversations which get others to talking about themselves, most people’s favorite pastime. When interviewing for a position, learn as much as possible about the interviewer, maybe by only glancing about her office, and get her to talking about herself. Whenever you want to contact someone in a certain position in an organization, but know no names, start at the top and be referred down. This will give you an edge when you get down to the right person.